Imagini ale paginilor
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

He shows that if Boswell had been merely seeking notoriety there was no more unlikely person for him to attach himself to than Samuel Johnson.


His Theory of History. - Carlyle is, however, undoubtedly of importance chiefly as historian. His theory of history, very clear and positive, is set forth in numerous places. History," he says in the Essay on History, "is the essence of innumerable Biographies." In the first lecture of Heroes and Hero-Worship it appears in these words: "Universal History is at bottom the History of the Great Men who have worked here." In Sartor Resartus: "Great Men are the inspired (speaking and acting) Texts of that divine Book of REVELATIONS, whereof a Chapter is completed from epoch to epoch, and by some named HISTORY."

From this it is clear that to Carlyle a certain amount of hero-worship is necessary to write a history. The outcome of his method is not a canvas like Macaulay's giving a panoramic view of the country or period under consideration; but a canvas from which stand out a few conspicuous figures. Macaulay's method is admirably adapted to such a work as his England in 1685-chapter III of the History of England.

Carlyle's, however, is the better to give one a vivid con ception of the figures who dominated the scene in Paris from 1789 to 1795. In his pages we come to know Marat of the "bleared soul;" Danton, "the huge, brawny figure;"


"roughe Robespie "whose


history a

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

Mirabeau," the world-compeller," "manruling deputy," "roughest lion's whelp ever littered of that rough brood; Robespierre, the "greenish-colored individual;" Lafayette, "whose name shall fill the world."

Carlyle's Gospel. One result of his theory regarding history and hero-worship is what is commonly called Carlyle's

we have two Saint-Simonian Missionaries were; full of earnest zeal; copious enough in haf-mus, and to me lather wearisome jargon. By and by you thould have some account of that matter. Souther's is the burs. terly was trivial, burblind, and on the whole emoneses and worthless. I know a man here, who would do it, berhaps much to your satisfaction.

[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]


(British Museum.)

gospel." The essential stuff of all his heroes is " sincerity," the quality that enabled them to see into the heart of things, and made them act "sincerely" on the convictions resulting from this seeing. This led him to an outspoken and constantly-emphasized condemnation of sham, the prevalence of which he held responsible for most of his country's ills.


Carlyle's Influence. The influence of Carlyle has been strong and far reaching. We seem to see it in Browning's Luria;

"A people is but the attempt of many
To rise to the completer life of one;
And those who live as models to the mass
Are singly of more value than they all."

It can hardly have failed to influence Tennyson in such
poems as Maud and Locksley Hall, with their notes of re-
bellion against "the social lies that warp us from the living
truth." It was to the influence of Carlyle that Phillips
Brooks, the great American preacher, and John Ruskin,
perhaps the greatest English social reformer of the nineteenth
century, attributed their determination to do and be some-


[ocr errors]

Although there were a number of poets of first rank in Victorian England, the greatest achievements of the age were in prose. Of the two prose forms which reached a high the novel and the essay development during this period -the first is secure in its preeminence. Essayists of the eighteenth century and the Romantic period may challenge the superiority of the later essayists; but great as are the novels of Richardson and Fielding, and of Jane Austen and Scott, it must be admitted that in total impression they fall below the great body of Victorian fiction.

For this age the novel surpassed in appeal every other form of literature, because of its greater capacity for giving expression to the many-sided life of the age. Of the Victorian novelists listed in Baker's Guide to the Best Fiction (more than a hundred) twelve seem to stand out as greater than the rest: Dickens, Thackeray, George Eliot, Trollope,

Reade, Kin Meredith, ever reach cussed in a rest we mu

the critica Thackeray must hold realism an

[blocks in formation]

Reade, Kingsley, the three Brontë sisters, Stevenson, George Meredith, and Thomas Hardy. Of these the last two have never reached a large audience, and hardly require to be discussed in a short history of English literature. Among the rest we must choose; 1 and we shall not vary much from either the critical or the popular judgment in choosing Dickens, Thackeray, and George Eliot from the realists. Stevenson must hold a place as the inaugurator of the reaction from realism and the return to romance.


It has been said that whenever literary London gets very dull somebody revives either the Bacon-Shakspere controversy or the reason of Dickens's popularity. The questions, "Did Bacon write Shakspere?" and "Why was Dickens popular?" are similar in their entire absurdity. A reading of Bacon's essay Of Love and Shakspere's Romeo and Juliet should answer the first; a reading of Oliver Twist, or David Copperfield, or A Tale of Two Cities, or Nicholas Nickleby, or any of six or eight other novels of Dickens, should answer the second.

« ÎnapoiContinuă »